Why do I even have this recipe in our blog? I am not sure. After all, Dominicans don’t make pan de agua (greakfast bread rolls) at home. We buy it in colmados (corner stores) and supermarkets. I guess it has something to do with all the requests I got for it over the years.
It must be a matter of nostalgia for a lot of our readers.
In all my years I have yet to see two “panes de agua” that looked, or tasted the same. Yet, for reasons beyond my comprehension, Dominicans can tell when they try one. It’s like we all have different voices, different dictions, but somehow manage to sound “Dominican”.
What’s with that?
When I was a child a messenger on a heavily-loaded tricycle delivered “pan de agua” to our door every evening. There were two bakeries in my hometown and only one delivered, both breads had different texture and flavor.
Most panes de agua sold in “colmados” have a similar shape, a long roll with an indentation along its length. But this is not the only pan de agua you can find, step into a city supermarket and the bread you’ll given will be more similar to a mini-baguette.
In any case, while I can produce a pretty decent pan de agua at home, it is because I have a machine for kneading and leavening, special oven gadgets, and special molds. For the sake of everyone’s pocket I have found a compromise. You’ll get the characteristic hard crust and soft center, but the shape will be different.
- 2 cups of pre-sifted bread flour
- 1 teaspoon of instant, dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of lukewarm water
- ⅓ cup of fine cornmeal
- Extra flour for working
- Whisk bread flour, yeast and salt together. Place in the mixer bowl and attach the dough hook.
- Start mixer at low speed (speed 2 of 12 in mine).
- Add the water and run mixer for 10 minutes. The resulting dough will be shaggy and quite wet.
- Pour the dough on a clean surface covered with flour.
- Divide the dough into 6. Make into balls. Sprinkle extra flour if necessary to work with it, but don't overdo it or the bread will be dry and hard.
- Place on a baking tray (see suggestions in notes) sprinkled with cornmeal. Let it rise covered in a dark, warm place until the balls double in size (1½ hrs, aprox.)
- Heat oven to 500 ºF (260 ºC). If your oven doesn't reach that temperature, go as high as it goes (results may vary).
- Place an empty tray on the topmost rack in the oven, one on the bottom. Fill both with boiling water. The oven should be very steamy when you put the bread in the oven.
- Place the tray with the bread in the center of the oven, between the trays with boiling water. Close the oven fast so the steam doesn't escape.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the trays with the water (be very careful), and bake the bread some more until they have a golden brown crust (7 - 10 mins aprox).
- Remove from the oven, serve hot.
You could try to knead this by hand, but I can't see how, the dough is very shaggy and sticky.
If you want to make the traditional elongated roll you will need a special tray. This one (the one I have) fits 6 rolls.
Rolls tend to get a bit flatter on a regular tray, to get taller round rolls I use this tray.
You need bread flour. Yes, you do.
If you are not sure that your yeast is alive, make a test by mixing a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of yeast and dissolving in a ¼ cup of lukewarm water. Cover and let it rest in a warm, dark place. In 10 minutes the top should be foamy, if not you need fresh yeast. Notice these ingredients are not listed as part of the recipe.